On June 22, ten popular gamers faced a dire challenge that no Epic Rocket Launcher could overcome. Twitch had frozen their streaming accounts for 24 hours. The reason? Music copyright violation. The punishment was a shock, mostly because using copyrighted stock music for live playing sessions, Let’s Plays, walkthroughs, and other VODs is extremely common in the wild west of the video streaming world. However, as viewership on live streaming platforms like Twitch and YouTube Gaming continues to grow at astronomical rates, its streamers are attracting more scrutiny, especially related to the use of copyright music. The wild west is becoming less wild. Here’s what streamers need to know about copyright music and how to find royalty free music downloads.
Why do streamers suddenly have to worry about music copyright infringement? After all, streamers have been chilling to music playlists or popping big musical hits into their Let’s Play videos for years without a peep. The answer is simple. Streaming is getting big. Really big; which means people are starting to pay attention.
At any given time, nearly a million viewers are hanging out on Twitch, watching their favorite streamers rip it up in Fortnite, Dota 2, League of Legends, and Mario Kart. (Well, there’s probably at least one guy streaming Mario Kart. Luigi for the win!) That’s a 21% viewership increase since the fourth quarter in 2017.
With rising viewership comes more money, and we aren’t just talking V Bucks. Between tips, subscriptions, sponsorships, and merch sales, top streamers have raked in millions. Even up-and-coming streamers and talented Esports stars can easily bring in thousands a month and make a tidy living by the sweat of their thumbs.
Where there’s money, regulation soon follows. Things that got overlooked before – like playing your favorite SoundCloud channel during an epic Dota 2 live stream – are suddenly in the spotlight.
What is copyright, and why are Twitch and YouTube making such a big deal about it? In a nutshell, whenever someone makes a creative work, they own it. When your cousin, Greg writes an excruciatingly sappy song about his breakup with his girlfriend of two months, he owns everything about that song, including the cliched lyrics, the screeching melody, and even the tear-stained score he scribbled on a napkin.
If you decide to play a recording of Greg’s song on your video game stream – maybe as the perfect accompaniment to smashing the other team’s Ancient in Dota 2 – you are, in effect, stealing his song. That is, unless he gives you permission to use the song or you pay him a royalty to use it.
Yes, yes, yes, that’s all well and good, you might be thinking, but don’t gamers use popular songs on their streams all the time? They do, but that doesn’t mean it’s legal or right. It just means the copyright holder either doesn’t know about the abuse yet or they haven’t bothered to take legal action.
Just because you haven’t gotten caught doesn’t mean stealing music is okay. More importantly, it also doesn’t mean you won’t get caught and have to face the consequences in the future!
It’s worth stressing thatunlessa you have received permission to use a song, you are in danger of copyright infringement. The most common ways to obtain this permission are:
· To receive direct permission from the copyright holder
· Use works in the public domain
· Use works with an allowable Creative Common license
· Pay the required royalty to the artist or copyright owner
· Purchase a license to play the music
The most important takeaway here is that you as the streamer are responsible for all the music on your stream. You can’t use the excuse that you didn’t know a song was copyrighted. (Hint: Some of those YouTube channels that claim to stream royalty free stock music actually include copyright music.) It is your responsibility to have the correct permissions, licenses, or royalty free music on your stream.
Sound a little confusing? It doesn’t have to be. There are plenty of simple ways to find royalty free stock music, which we will review later in this article. First, though, let’s look at what could happen if you get caught streaming copyright music.
(Note: There is a lot of speculation and discussion on whether streaming video games is an infringement on the copyright of the video game maker. This is a long and complex topic for another article. In this article we will focus exclusively on music copyright.)
Both Twitch and YouTube have recognized the risk that copyright infringement represents to their platforms. They don’t want to be sued by copyright holders anymore than you do. As a result, both platforms (YouTube is owned by Google and Twitch is owned by Amazon), have developed automated systems to scan and root out instances of copyright infringement.
Many gamers have run into Twitch’s Audible Magic program, which automatically mutes any copyrighted audio it detects in pre-recorded videos. This is practically a slap on the wrist compared to YouTube’s robust Content ID system, which will pull down any videos with copyrighted music in them. If your video is pulled, not only do you lose all potential ad revenue from that video, but you’ll also need to sit through their copyright course before you can post any new gaming clips. If you decide to push the envelope and get three strikes within 90 days, YouTube may decide to tear yank down all of your channels.
That might seem like an extreme measure, but things could get worse. The owner of the copyrighted song may decide to sue you in court and seek damages of up to $150,000 per infringed work. Think about how many songs you could stream during a five-hour play through of Hearthstone, and you’ll start to understand how a motivated copyright holder could financially destroy you.
To date, we haven’t found any examples of gamers hauled to court, but several YouTube personalities have faced pricey lawsuits due to copyright infringement. The point is, whether your VOD gets muted or pulled down, or whether you get a scary cease and desist letter in the mail, it’s just not smart to mess with copyright infringement. This is especially true, because there are so many ways to find royalty free music downloads.
Gamers, you actually have lots of choices when it comes to finding great stock music for your gaming streams. Some options are better than others, but all are valid and will keep you out of copyright trouble.
Both Twitch and YouTube offer royalty free music to their users This is probably the easiest and simplest solution to your music worries. The drawbacks, however, are worth considering.
First, the selection of music isn’t very broad, and not all of it makes a great accompaniment to gaming. Second, if every gamer uses music from the same small list, things are going to get repetitive fast. You don’t want your viewers and especially not your subscribers confusing your stream with someone else’s because they sound the exact same.
Copyright protections for any song will eventually expire. When this happens, the music enters the public domain and can be used in any way you please. Unfortunately, this takes a long time. All music created before 1923 is in the public domain, but if you’re looking for dubstep or electro-pop, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Music in the public domain is limited and more than a little crusty!
You may have heard of the Creative Commons, which allows artists to offer their music to the public under certain types of licenses. The Creative Commons can be a great place to find free music from a variety of artists. There are drawbacks, however. You won’t find Beyoncé or DJ Khalid in the Creative Commons. Instead, you’ll need to dive deep to find good music, and you’ll run into plenty of musical rubbish along the way.
Also, the Creative Commons licensing system can be confusing. Some licenses won’t allow you to use the song for commercial purposes, so if you’re making money from subscribers or merch on your stream, this could be a problem. Other licenses don’t allow derivative uses, meaning you can’t change the music in any way. Streaming music along with your video game play is considered a derivative use (you are combining the music with the visual of the gaming) so that won’t fly either.
All this is to say that Creative Commons can be complicated, and just because a song has a Creative Commons license doesn’t mean you can use it!
If you want your gaming stream to really stand out, then it might be time to look into stock music sites that specialize in providing royalty free stock music for gamers as well as other artists and content creators.
The beauty of these sites is that they handle all the copyright and royalty issues for you, and their music tends to be good quality, since you are paying for the service. Soundstripe is an example of a stock music site. We work with talented artists and license their music, which we then offer to our customers without restriction. Our partner artists get fairly compensated, and our customers can use all of the music in our online library without ever worrying about copyright problems.
It’s a win-win-win!
Our library includes a wide range of music genres, including popular gaming categories like EDM, electronic, electro-pop, trip hop, classic, and ambient. You can also search our collection by mood and find music that is carefree, quirky, retro, dynamic, energetic, suspenseful, fun, or upbeat. Best of all, you can create an unlimited number of playlists for different moods or different games. When you’re ready to settle in for a long Fortnite streaming session, just start your playlist and go.
Soundstripe gives you the music you need to play your best and entertain your subscribers without any royalty complications or copyright fears. If only killing the other 99 people in your Fortnite battle royale was so easy!